Van Gogh without his art

We often hear people talk about how genius and insanity are intertwined.

Van Gogh is often portrayed as the tortured artist who struggled with mental illness throughout his life, which he eventually took. People celebrate Van Gogh’s genius, but often pity that it came at such a dear cost to his mental health and his well-being.  If that is the price for genius, is it really worth paying?

We often ask if it is Van Gogh’s art that fueled his mental illness and pushed him over the edge. Yet, we forget to ask ourselves another question – how many people suffer from mental illness, but are unable to create valuable art? How many people suffer from depression, but do not paint The Starry Night or Sunflowers? Unfortunately, far more people suffer from mental illness without creative genius to accompany it.

Sunflowers – Vincent Van Gogh

Seen another way, Van Gogh’s art didn’t cost him his life – it redeemed it. His art filled his otherwise tragic and meaningless life with some purpose. Without his art, Van Gogh would have merely been a poor man who suffered from mental illness in the Dutch countryside – one among millions of such people that we have long forgotten.

Inspiration: Maria Popova

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